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I built up a ’11 Mukluk frame about 4 months ago mostly for fun. I did not realize just how fun it was going to be. The more I rode it, the more I started to entertain the ridiculous idea of selecting the Mukluk over my 29 inch Ti hardtail bike for the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) this year.

To make a long story short, I rode part of the CTR in 2009, but had to leave to attend to family. I rode the 29” bike and it was, what I though at the time, absolutely perfect. The more I ride the Muk I came to believe there may be some real benefits of those big tires on the trail. The Muk does not make me a better rider, but it does mask some of my sloppiness on the trail:

  • Oops, dropped into a rut… no problem turn the wheel and pop out.
  • Did not see that rock … OK just roll over it
  • Deep
sand in that turn … Trust me, I’ll keep you going in the right direction.

I decided I needed to either confirm my thoughts or get some real data and use facts rather than emotion to make a decision. So, yesterday I took both bikes to a local trail/ski hill that I have ridden many 24 hour races. (Afton Alps in Minnesota). Each lap is about 6.3 miles and has 1000 ft of climbing per lap.

The 29” bike weighs 23 lbs even and the Muk weighs 29 lbs even. Both verified on a hanging scale. The Muk has a double front chain ring 22/36. The 29” has a 20/32 front and both have XTR 11-34 rear cassette. Tires are Crossmarks and HuDu’s (you can figure out which bikes).




So here are the three laps:

The first lap was on the Mukluk and I was not trying to race it, just maintain a nice pace; similar to what I would keep for a 24 hour race. Lap time - 53:15


The second lap was on the 29”. Again, I was trying to maintain the same level of effort as with the Mukluk on lap 1. I was so tempted to look at the time, because the bike felt much faster. I resisted the temptation and just rode. Although, the reduced weight of the wheels di allow me to accelerate soooo much faster and easier. I did take advantage of this a couple times and just spun up the wheels because it was so fun and easy. You can see this in the speed graph that the points are much sharper on this lap and much smoother on the Muk laps. In the end, you can see that I was actually a little slower. Lap time 55:18


The third lap was my attempt at a control lap for the Mukluk. I thought that lap 2 might be slower just due to the temps going up and some fatigue is bound to set in. So back out on the Muk for a final lap. I dropped the chain at the very end of the lap so that added less than a minute to my final time. Lap time 56:34



So who won the cage match? Did this answer my question on which bike to ride?? Maybe. The 6 lb weigh difference is nothing to ignore on a 500 mile race where most is above 10,000 feet elevation. However, I really do think that the big tires would allow me to ride the bike more than hike with the bike than the 29” bike allowed a couple years ago. Also, the forgiving nature of the big wheels can cover up quite a few errors in technique when I get tired or lazy. Either way, I am bringing both bike and it will probably be a game time decision.

Hope this helps someone when thinking of whether or not a fat bike is actually suitable as a trail bike. Given my experience I would say definitely.
 

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I have come to a similar conclusion, to a large extent. I tend to look towards my skinny-tired bikes for shorter rides/races these days. If you added a fat Ti frame and front suspension to the mix, it would hardly be a contest. :thumbsup:

FWIW, a friend (JR Z on this forum) is doing the Great Divide Tour on his Alfine 8-equipped Pugsley (which weighs on the close order of 60 lbs. just for a local jaunt :eekster:), and that's 2300 miles. So the fat tires have a place in such circumstances, for sure.
 
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A most xcellent comparo showcasing the Muk's trail worthyness. :thumbsup:
 

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This info kind of confirms the info i read here from a german study saying that the lighter wheelset took less energy to get to speed but the heaver wheelset had more flywheel effect so it was easier to mantain forward motion once there.
 

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I have come to a similar conclusion, to a large extent. I tend to look towards my skinny-tired bikes for shorter rides/races these days. If you added a fat Ti frame and front suspension to the mix, it would hardly be a contest. :thumbsup:

FWIW, a friend (JR Z on this forum) is doing the Great Divide Tour on his Alfine 8-equipped Pugsley (which weighs on the close order of 60 lbs. just for a local jaunt :eekster:), and that's 2300 miles. So the fat tires have a place in such circumstances, for sure.
My bold :)

I assume that you mean 60lbs fully loaded?
 

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My bold :)

I assume that you mean 60lbs fully loaded?
Well, it was loaded for a "light" ~100 mile jaunt around town. No idea what it will be at for the 2700 mile trek he starts tomorrow (I believe). :yikes:
 

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This info kind of confirms the info i read here from a german study saying that the lighter wheelset took less energy to get to speed but the heaver wheelset had more flywheel effect so it was easier to mantain forward motion once there.
This is so true, after being semi sidelined with a back problem I did come to appreciate the flywheel effect of my fat bike but on the tight twisty stuff where there was a lot of on and off accelerating my back says 29er over fat bike anyday.
 

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FWIW, the ride I ride almost daily takes me ~2:25 on my 29er and around 14% longer at 2:45 on my fat bike. I attribute the difference mostly to rolling resistance of the softly inflated tires.

They are very nearly the same bike but with different tire sizes, 60mm on the 29er, and BFLs on Clown Shoes, with very low inflation, on the fat bike. Both have front suspension with ~100mm of travel.

The ride is about 19 miles with my best guess of around 1500 vertical feet climbing and descending. So it is flatter than the OP's trail, which means rolling resistance is more significant.
 

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sounds like light rear wheel for acceleration and fat front for unexpected impacts may be your point of perfection. :D
 
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